Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
6/11/2014
10:45 AM
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Mobile Business Without The Apps

SAP technology helps Brazilian job site contact workers where they are -- on cellphones, but without apps.

Jacob Rosenbloom approached Brazil's labor market as an investor. He saw, he said last week in a media conference at SAP's SapphireNow conference, a labor market of 102 million people, of whom only about 15 million have any education beyond high school. How could a company build a labor market to serve a laborer who doesn't know what a resumé is and has never used a personal computer? According to Rosenbloom, CEO and co-founder of Emprego Ligado, the largest blue-collar employment site in Brazil, his firm did it by building a company that was mobile from the ground up.

SAP, which announced general availability of the SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 on May 22, provides the backend application that allows Emprego Ligado to take information from cellphones and turn it into records that potential employers can use. The process is complicated by the fact that the workers in Emprego Ligado's target labor pool tend not to have smartphones, so an app isn't a good option. The company turns, instead, to standard SMS messaging to build a profile of each worker and communicate with them concerning job opportunities.

The lack of an app doesn't mean that Emprego Ligado has the luxury of ignoring user interface design. "Customers are so used to being spoiled by beautiful UX that we need to understand the wants and needs of everyone who's going to touch our app. The way the customer interacts with our system is through SMS -- they think they're talking to their mother or a friend. We had to look carefully at the language we use to maintain the relationship," said Rosenbloom.

[Learn more about SAP. See SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner: Exclusive Q&A.]

Careful use of the SMS interface coupled with backend analytics allows Emprego Ligado to match job seekers to jobs based on one of the most important indicators of a successful match: physical proximity to work. "We found that the defining factor in someone's success in interviewing was how close they are to where they'll be working," Rosenbloom said. He explained that this is an issue for both the workers and the companies that are Emprego Ligado's customers. "When turnover is too high, it's a problem for everyone."

Rick Costanzo, executive VP and general manager of global mobility solutions at SAP, pointed out at the media conference that mobile is the most prevalent technology in emerging markets. Rosenbloom agreed, saying, "We looked at the tools available to consumers in the emerging markets: They don't pay to have a professional network profile created, and they don't use mobile professional tools, but they do have mobile devices in their hands."

Rosenbloom's observations are in line with the results of the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project survey on mobile device use. According to the survey, 80% of Brazilians own a cellphone, with only 15% of those qualifying as smartphones. The cellphone ownership numbers compare with 49% of Brazilians who say that they either own a smartphone or occasionally use the Internet in another way. Since smartphone ownership and Internet use are each highly correlated with education, it's obvious that simple cellphone text messaging is the dominant technology for reaching blue-collar workers -- and is likely to remain so for some time to come.

Costanzo says that, while he has no question about the power and impact of the SAP Mobile Platform, there is one aspect of the product line that has a less rosy future: the product description. "Mobility is an archaic term because everything is mobile now," he said.

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Curtis Franklin Jr. has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He contributes to a number of technology-industry publications including Information Week , ChannelWeb , Network ... View Full Bio
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Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 1:23:58 PM
Everything is mobile now
Costanzo nails it with this closing comment:  "Mobility is an archaic term because everything is mobile now."

Right on, and this project is an excellent example of how smart use of technology can not only serve business needs but actually change people's livees for the better by opening them up to employment oppoortunities.

@Curt (+ rest of community): Do you see opportunities for applying a similar approach to other markets (I'm thinking of Detroit for starters). If so, what would be the key differences between doing this in a US market versus the market served here?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/12/2014 | 1:22:04 PM
Re: Brilliant
This is certianly quite clever. I guess I only have one question-- if everyone in Brazil had smart phones would they have selected a different strategy, because appless to me sounds good under any circumstances.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 1:04:27 PM
Re: Mobile Business Without The Apps
Seconded on Rich and Mr. Henschens's points both (which really aren't so different, when you think about it). You hear it repeated in meeting rooms across the globe - the key is to understand your target audience, and market something they want to them in the way that they want. A lot of companies give what you've referred to in the past as 'lip service' to that idea, Curt, without really doing it. This is a great example of it being done right. Think about all the money that would have been wasted with a smartphone app!

The Black & Decker example brings up another great case. It doesn't have to be simply that you're reaching for a lower level of customer for you to choose a simpler solution. If you have a variety of customers, the simple solution may still be the best. The question is whether it will save you time, money, and effort, while still maximizing success (although, hitting your lowest common denominator is part of that). In the end, nothing else really matters, does it? Nobody's going to look at your flashy accelerated graphics when your department's in the red, are they?
D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
6/11/2014 | 1:19:30 PM
It doesn't have to be Brazil
Salesforce.com customer Stanley Black & Decker did a mobile app using SMS right here in the USA. The company's MAC Tools truck drivers, who go from shop to shop delivering tools, wanted something fast and simple to verify deliveries and orders, and not all of them had smart phones. SMS is stupid simple, relaible, and cheap. Those are attributes more businesses should consider before investing a bundle in expensive, hard-to-maintain native apps or even Web apps.
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